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Orphans of Albion - Poetry of the British Underground
Barry Tebb’s 21st century response to Michael Horovitz’s groundbreaking
1960s anthology, Children of Albion, and its successor, Grandchildren of Albion, re-addresses our contemporary notion of a poetic mainstream, revealing the vast array of talent present today, much of which is inexplicably under-represented, or even ignored.
The first section presents the revival of some remarkable poets:
Martin Bell, Thomas Blackburn, C. Day Lewis, David Gascoyne,
John Silkin — as well as two writers in need of no such thing: Angela
Carter and Stevie Smith. These poets feature alongside contemporaries
whose sometimes comparable gifts did not win greater recognition.
The displacement of fine late Romantic poets like Darley, Beddoes and
Emily Brontë after the 1840s, furnishes close parallel.
The second part of the anthology catalogues poets who inherit this
similarly haunted tradition; and whose work owns no clear alignment
with the mainstream. Poets such as Kevin Crossley-Holland, Debjani
Chatterjee, and Jeremy Reed are showcased here alongside some
newer discoveries, such as Mark Floyer, Steve Spence and David Kessel.
All in all, they form a distinct alternative.
This is a jarring, often challenging book. Like its editor, it has a cussed
way of asking the dangerous question of what British poetry is, and
compelling you into a different answer from the one you might have
opened the book with.
Edited by Barry Tebb
Published by Survivors’ Press in association with Sixties Press, 2006
Example of a poem in this publication:
The Lucky Marriage
I often wonder as the fairy story
Tells how the little goose-girl found her prince,
Or of the widowed queen who stopped her carriage
And threw a rose down to the gangling dunce,
What is the meaning of this lucky marriage
Which lasts forever, it is often said,
Because I know too well such consummation
Is not a question of a double bed,
Or of the wedding bells and royal procession
With twenty major-domos at its head.
At least its bride and groom must be rejected;
The fairy godmother will only call
On Cinders scrubbing tiles beside the chimney
While her proud sisters foot it at the ball;
From all but the last son without a birthright
The beggarwoman hoards her magic seed.
Well, if they’d had the good luck of their siblings
And found occasion kinder to their need,
They would have spent their breath on natural pleasures
And had no time for murmurs in the night:
They heard because they were condemned to silence,
And learnt to see because they had no light.
I mean the elder son and cherished sister
Know but the surface of each common day;
It takes the cunning eye of the rejected
To dip beneath that skin of shadow-play
And come into the meaning of a landscape.
I think that every bird and casual stone
Are syllables thrust down from some broad language
That we must ravel out and make our own.
Yet who is ever turned towards that journey
Till deprivations riddle through the heart?
And so I praise the goose-girl and the scullion
Beside a midden or a refuse cart.
And yet all images for this completion
Somehow by-pass its real ghostliness
Which can’t be measured by a sweating finger,
Or any salt and carnal nakedness.
Although two heads upon a single pillow
May be the metaphor that serves it best,
No lying down within a single moment
Will give the outward going any rest;
It’s only when we reach beyond our pronouns
And come into ourselves that we are blest.
Is this the meaning of the lucky marriage
Which lasts forever, it is often said,
Between the goose-girl and the kitchen servant,
Who have no wedding ring or mutual bed?
by Thomas Blackburn